Total Pageviews

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Betrayed but not forgotten...the continuing crisis of Saeed Abedini.

"I pray for this innocent man....
May God bring freedom for us all..Amen.
       (My dear Iranian friend...
         name withheld for security reasons.)

 "I never anticipated that I would have to battle my own government to secure his freedom!"
 In a tone of despair and frustration, Naghmeh Abedini, publicly proclaimed her outrage during her testimony at the congressional hearings concerning the fate of her husband Saeed who has spent the last 444 days of his life in an Iranian prison.
Naghmeh feels betrayed by her own government! Just recently when Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif in Geneva for the nuclear talks, the opportunity for a good faith initiative between the United States and Iran was right there at the table, but....nothing happened!
 The American Center for Law and Justice, (ACLJ) representing Saeed and his wife Naghmeh, were astonished that the United States passed by a golden opportunity to secure the release of Saeed as "pre-condition" before any negotiations for Iran's nuclear program were discussed. Instead, Iran was put on a six month probation and the weight of the international sanctions were eased against them, restoring millions of dollars to their economic woes.
The Obama Administration was satisfied that after 34 years, a new relationship with Iran was finally emerging and there was finally hope..but there is just one problem..
 An American citizen was left behind in the midst of the celebration and instead of addressing the horrors of the Iranian human rights violations, the United States instead rejoiced in the success of a major nuclear arms agreement.
While Iran and the U.S. shook hands, Saeed continues to experience deteriorating health conditions, internal bleeding and torture after being transferred to Rajar Shahr prison in Karaj, Iran. Rajar Shahr is "home" to murderers, drug addicts, and rapists on death row, placing Saeed in a very dangerous environment. The Iranian regime puts prisoners here that they want to disappear in an atmosphere of "silent execution," depriving them of any medical treatment or drugs and eventually they either die from disease or at the hands of other violent inmates.
Even though it appears that our government has betrayed Saeed by not mentioning him in the nuclear negotiations with Iran, there is one dear friend of mine who has not forgotten him.
For security reasons, I cannot mention her name except to say that she lives in Tehran. She is secretly a Christian. We have texted each other many times and I have helped my friend by sending her translations of the Bible in the Farsi language.
A few weeks ago, my friend listened to my radio program, "The Cross in the Desert." The topic on that program was about Saeed and the nuclear talks.
After listening, my friend sent me a beautiful email message in which she shared her heart with me about the desperate situation of Saeed. The following message is exactly in her own words:

           "I just heard your radio program, Randy. It made me sad because I realized how indifferent I am. And I have no fault because when you live here you learn that if you want to stay safe you have to be indifferent. The problems here are too much! We citizens are drawn into so many problems and yet we don't dare complain. We do not dare to defend innocent people in prison like Saeed. We have to remain silent and just watch!
I pray for this innocent man. I pray for his freedom. May God bring freedom for all of us. Amen!

Words cannot adequately express how much I appreciate my dear friend's honesty! In the midst of being forgotten by his government, Saeed has a true friend living right there in the heart of Iran. A beauiful, young,  21 year-old University student who desires to publicly speak out for him but has to remain silent in fear for her life. Yet my friend is praying for Saeed. She has not forgotten him! 
My dear friend's beautiful message of love and prayer for Saeed should stand as a rebuke to our government! They ought to be ashamed for not speaking up for their own citizen and doing
everything possible to demand his release! 
Even though my government failed to speak out for Saeed, my friend didn't! She let her voice and prayers be heard in a country that would immediately imprison her for making her views public.
What courage! What conviction! God bless you my dear friend for not forgetting Saeed!

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Death in Borazjan: Remembering Shabnam

Fire ablaze within my eyes.
A smile concealing all my lies,
Screaming, begging, calling out,
A final, frantic, desperate shout...

They'll say I died of suicide
But no one knows how much they've lied,
It wasn't a rope, a blade or pills, that broke my soul and gave me chills,
I died inside so long before,
To live each day, an endless chore,
Pill could not kill what was already dead,
A twisted soul, an empty head....
        (Scarlet Tears...Coran Darling)

"Mouchette" is a 1967 French film directed by Robert Bresson and starring Nadine Nortier and Jean-Clauder Guilbert. 
Nadine stars as a a young troubled teenage girl named Mouchette, the daughter of a bullying alcoholic father and an ailing mother, living in an isolated french village.
Mouchette's life is filled with both tragedy and cruelty spending her entire day caring for her infant brother and bedridden mother. At school she is continuously mocked by her classmates and humiliated by her teacher when she sings off key.
One eventful day while walking home from school, her life is changed forever. She gets lost in the woods during a violent storm and seeks shelter at a nearby home.
The owner of the home, Arsene, is an epileptic alcoholic that takes Mouchette in from the storm and then schemes to use her in covering up the murder of a man he had a fight with.
After Mouchette agrees to help Arsene by repeating a cover story that absolves him of the blame, he then rapes her. Later on she reluctantly tells the cover story and explains that on the night of the murder she was with her lover Arsesne, giving him the perfect alibi.
Mouchette eventually returns home, filled with shame and humiliation, only to find her mother's condition worsening. Sadly, a few days later, her mother dies and Mouchette is devastated. Unable to cope with her grief and humiliation, Mouchette goes to a nearby lake and drowns herself.
Suicide. An all too common, sad ending to the lives of teenagers all over the world whose lives are broken from shame, guilt and misery. In Iran, suicide is the second leading cause of death. The major contributing factor to the suicide epidemic in Iran among the youth is the strict government supervision that leads to fear and oppression and an overall sense of hopelessness.
 The main victims of suicide in Iran are young women. In the Islamic society of Iran, women are viewed as subservient to men. The Quran, Islam's Holy book, proclaims that, "Men have authority over women, because God has made the one superior to the other...(Surah 4:34) Therefore the woman is treated as a possession of the man, relegated to the role of little more than a housewife and a mother who no expectations of becoming anything more.
The "superior male" worldview in an Islamic society is very oppressive to the woman. The Quran teaches a man can inherit twice as much as a female, (Surah 4:11), he can beat his wife is he suspects her of adultery (Surah 4:35) and can marry up to four women, (Surah 4:3).
 In contrast,  the woman must ask permission from her husband to leave her home and is forbidden from traveling alone. She is little more than a slave or a possession. In public she is required to wear a hijab and if the "morality police" discover she is showing too much skin or wearing makeup, she will be arrested and retained at the police station until a significant bail is posted for her release.
Shabnam Basiri, a 14 year-old teenager, full of life, full of great future expectations and dreams, 
was born into this kind of society, in Borazjan, located in the south of Iran.
Shabnam was like any other ordinary teenage girl, vibrant, full of life, excited to realize all of her dreams and yet underneath her smile, was an inner pain, a troubled soul, a deep despair. She witnessed the religious hypocrisy all around her and considered what her life would eventually become because of living in a male-dominated society. Reflecting on the destiny and fate of her life, Shabnam felt hopeless and trapped and decided to commit suicide rather than be another victim of female oppression. Like many other women in Iran had done before her, she set herself on fire, protesting against the dictatorship of the Islamic regime. 
Saddened and broken by her death, Shabnam's classmates laid flowers on her desk at school for several weeks, as a tribute to her life. Despite all of the sorrow and pain surrounding her, Shabnam found solace and comfort in the poems of Ahmad Shamloo, an Iranian poet of liberty, who was a humanist with a hope and passion for justice.
One of his most well known poems, "Aida in the mirror," is beautifully inscribed on her gravestone, a lovely tribute to a young teenage girl whose life was tragically cut short because of an oppressive society's archaic and medieval treatment of women.
In the midst of this painful tragedy, Nasim, Shabnam's beautiful sister, now carries the torch for women's rights through writing articles and speaking out. She has become a voice for impoverished and suppressed women in India and all over the world, working tirelessly to improve their societal situation.
There are many "Shabnams" in the world crying out for help, desperate for someone to hear their voices. This is the reason why I wrote my book, "The Rose of Nowruz: dreams of hope and freedom." My book is based on the stories and experiences of my friends  in Iran, struggling for hope and freedom in a society just like the one that Shabnam grew up in. 
The suicide rate among women in Iran is frightening! There is a brokenness, a hopelessness and despair that is tormenting the soul of every young woman. Their only desire is to grow up normally and realize their dreams through hard work and education.
Who hears the cries of the "Shabnams" of the world? Who is willing to listen?
I know one person who does hear and who does listen. He is near to the brokenhearted and he saves the crushed in spirit.
His name is Jesus. He says, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
Why not come to him today?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Shiva Mahbobi: A Voice of Hope for Political Prisoners

"Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself.
 Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt 
their pain in your own bodies."
                     (Hebrews 13:3)

 The writer of Hebrews reminds us to never forget Christians being persecuted for their faith in prison. In fact he wants us to "feel" their pain in our prayers so much so as if it were actually happening to us!
Shiva Mahbobi understands that level of pain. At age 16, she was arrested by the Islamic regime and put in Iran's most deadliest prison for three and one half years of intense torture because she spoke out against the evil atrocities of her government.
When Shiva was finally released she vowed to never forget the cruel treatment of fellow prisoners. She has dedicated her life to being a voice of hope for Iranian political prisoners.
Just recently, Shiva was a guest on my blog talk radio program, "The Cross in the Desert," live from London, England via Skype. Shiva explained her role as Spokesperson for the Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in Iran (CFPPI) as an outreach of compassion, hope and awareness about the unjust treatment of Iranian political prisoners. One such example of unjust treatment, is Zeinab Jalalian, a political prisoner that she features on her TV program and Facebook page. Zeinab was originally arrested by Iran and scheduled for execution. After much political pressure from human rights groups her sentence was downgraded to life. However Zeinab is suffering from a serious eye disease complicated by periods of intense torture and is being refused any medical treatment. Unless she receives immediate medical treatment she will go blind. This is where Shiva and the CFPPI come in. They begin by sending emails, letters, creating petitions, producing TV programs and making their case known worldwide throughout the media. Shiva interviews the parents, friends and loved ones of the prisoners on her television program, speaking out for their injustices and calling for their freedom. By creating worldwide awareness, CFPPI puts pressure on the Iranian regime and in some cases they listen and slowly respond by providing adequate medical care for the helpless prisoner.
"Don't let their heartbeats stop," is a recent media campaign with videos featuring political prisoners like Zeinab who are in hopeless conditions. Iran subjects most of its prisoners to what is called, "silent death' where they gradually let them die from lack of medical care and deplorable prison conditions. In this way the regime can plead  "innocent" because they didn't directly execute them.
Shiva told me that we must be relentless in sending letters and emails, organizing rallies and keeping the case of political prisoners in the media spotlight so they are never forgotten. She tells anyone who wants to be involved that
 the most important thing they can do is donate their time and their voices for these helpless prisoners who have no voice of their own.
The passion of what Shiva does comes from an unforgettable experience she had while in Evin Prison in 1984. Right before her eyes she witnessed her best friend being executed!
Shiva has never forgotten that experience. She has dedicated her life to being a voice of hope and compassion to the voiceless.
The write of Hebrews reminds us to never forget those who are in prison. Shiva has not. Her prison house of suffering became the catalyst for her mission in life. Shiva has dedicated and sacrificed her life for those behind bars in Iran.
She is calling us to join her in the cause. What will you do?

For more information or to become involved. Click on this link.